My Wife's Unintentional Gift
It's Christmas and I have gifts on the brain. All those pretty packages are inticing, and some even have my name on them. I love gifts, the thought put into them makes them special, and the effort to wrap them with colorful paper and ribbon just makes it all so wonderful. Sometimes, however it is the unintentional, unexpected gifts that really stand out and last a lifetime.
The transition from a non Christian environment to a Christian one was not easy for me. I left the liberal, morally lax University of South Florida for the conservative, rule abundant Collumbia Bible College. I saw rules as guidelines, but these people took them seriously. It was easy for me to condemn them as legalistic when they saw them as a reflection of a holy life. Identifying people who obey rules as legalistic is an easy way for disobedient people to live however they want. I know, I was that person.
It wasn't just the shift in collegic institutions that created this conflict; I began dating a young lady who was rule intense. I mean what is wrong with holding hands, but there were rules. That did not deter me from pursuing her, and though my charm swept her off her feet her parents were another matter.
After our engagement I spent a summer with my future inlaws in Alaska, helping with the youth of their church. They got to know me for a whole month before Rebecca arrived. When she did they took her aside and asked if she was sure she wanted to marry me. Their was something about that cavalier young man who didn't conform to the ways of rule abiding people. I had certain rough character flaws that any diligent father would be concerned about.
Rebecca married me anyway. The contrast in families was a contrast of perfection. That's how I thought of hers and mine. Rebecca grew up in a family of perfect people. Her sisters and their husbands were perfect. They were perfect spouses, perfect parents, and perfect Christians. They obeyed the rules and taught their children the same. Our family seemed more free wheeling, rowdy, and a little irreligious in comparison. Sufficient to say there were tense moments in our marriage as I navigated the seas of perfect righteous living.
However, this is the unintentional gift, a godly heritage. My new family was far from perfect, it just seemed that they were in contrast to mine. They struggled with sin and balancing rules and grace just as I did, they just had more practice. I look back on the conflict Rebecca and I had over my insecurity and marvel in the grace she and her family showed me. Her parents may have questioned her engagement, but once we were married they accepted me openly as their son.
I love my mom and dad, and they did their best. Yet, they did not leave a legacy of believing children who live for the Lord. The unintentional gift of a godly heritage brought me into a family of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who love the Lord and seek to serve him daily. Some are pastors, some are missionaries, some laborers, and some are mothers raising the next generation in the line of this great gift.
We used to get together for Thanksgiving. We can't now because the logistics are too difficult. But the last one was a celebration of this unintentional gift. We couldn't sit around one, or even two tables anymore. We were in a garage with multiple rows of tables to accommodate all the children. My in laws sat smiling as they listened to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren express their thanksgiving and sing praise to our savior. We honored the Lord for his mercy and grace and prayed that he would continue this wonderful legacy in our own families.
As I reflect on the gifts I will receive this Christmas there will be none so lasting as the unintentional gift of a godly heritage. If you don't belong to one, it has to begin somewhere, pass the gift on the the next generation. It will be the best gift they will ever receive. I'm just saying..